Root Canal Treatment (also called Endodontics) is needed when the blood or nerve supply of the tooth (the pulp) is infected through decay or injury. It is most often needed in teeth which have very large or deep fillings, or in teeth which have deep dental caries (decay).
Why is a Root Canal Filling needed?
If the pulp becomes infected or inflamed, infection may spread through the root canal system of the tooth eventually leading to an abscess. If Root Canal Treatment is not carried out, the infection will spread and the tooth may need to be taken out.
What does Root Canal Treatment involve?
Usually the treatment will involve two or more appointments.Firstly the infected pulp is removed and any infection is drained. The root canals are then cleaned, disinfected and shaped until ready for the permanent root-filling. Once the dentist is confident that the infection is gone, the root filling can be placed into the root canals. The root filling is a rubber material which is compressed into the root to permanently seal it. A normal filling is then needed on top of the root filling to restore and seal the tooth.
Does it hurt?
A local anaesthetic is used and the whole procedure should feel little different to that of having a normal filling although the appointment will usually be longer. There will usually be some pain or discomfort for 3-4 days following the treatment. The tooth may feel slightly tender and “different” for a few weeks following treatment.
What if I don't have the treatment?
The alternative to RCT is the extraction of the tooth. Once the pulp is damaged, it cannot heal without treatment and it is not recommended to leave an infected tooth in the mouth.
What will my tooth look like after the treatment?
In the past, a root treated tooth would often darken after treatment. However with modern techniques this does not usually happen to a significant degree. If any discolouration should take place, there are several cosmetic treatments available to restore the natural appearance of the tooth.
What if the infection comes back?
Root canal treatment is usually successful in 80-90%of cases. If there should be a recurrence of infection the treatment can sometimes be repeated. If a tooth has a particularly difficult shape, or a complication, it is possible to refer to a specialist endodontist who may be able to save the tooth. Sometimes extraction of the tooth is the only option if treatment fails.
How much does it cost?
The cost depends on the number of roots the tooth in question has (back teeth have more roots than front teeth) Please see our current fee guide.
Are there any risks?
There is a moderate risk of pain and swelling immediately following treatment and for a few days afterwards. This is normally relieved by over-the-counter painkillers but can occasionally be more severe.
Sometimes there can be a spreading infection from the tooth in which case we would usually prescribe antibiotics.
The dentist may “perforate” the tooth (this is when a hole is made through the side of the root-canal when searching for particularly small or difficult root canals)
Root-canal instruments are fragile- there is a possibility that one may break inside the tooth.
The root-filling may sometimes inadvertently extend beyond the tip of the root, or may not completely fill the root to the tip.
Any of these complications may compromise the prognosis for the tooth, and delay or prevent healing..
In some cases a serious complication may necessitate extraction of the tooth or referral to a specialist.
Will the tooth be safe after treatment?
Root filled teeth are weaker and more brittle than live teeth. For this reason it is often advisable to restore the root-filled tooth with a crown or onlay to reinforce the tooth. We normally wait a few months after treatment so that we can be sure that the root canal treatment is OK prior to assessing whether crowning is advisable.